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Alleged burglar charged with targeting 16 Belfast shops and restaurants probed over 18 more break-ins, court hears

An alleged burglar charged with targeting up to 16 shops and restaurants across Belfast is being investigated in connection with nearly 20 other break-ins, the High Court heard today.

Prosecutors claimed Andrew Aparicio continued his crime spree after falling out with a man accused of being his accomplice in many of the raids, including one where £15,000 worth of clothing was stolen.

Details emerged as the 31-year-old defendant, from Russell Court in the city, was granted bail.

Aparicio is charged with multiple burglaries and attempted burglaries between July and November last year.

He is alleged to have targeted coffee shops, a fashion store, restaurants, a hairdressers and a butchers at locations in the south and east of the city.

Prosecution counsel Kate McKay told the court: "He's also been released on bail while police investigate a further 18 such burglaries."

Police claim Aparicio and 26-year-old co-accused Conor Allen, of Ormiston Drive in Belfast, are part of a crime gang.

A judge was told the business premises were all broken into at night, with the raiders either prizing their way in with a jemmy bar or coming in through skylights.

Both men are accused of stealing £15,000 worth of goods from David Kerr Clothing on the Newtownards Road last August.

More than £2,000 in cash and a safe was allegedly stolen in a raid on a Mexican restaurant on the Lisburn Road a month later.

A similar amount of money and an iPad was taken from an Upper Newtownards Road butchers in September, according to the charges.

It was confirmed in court today that there is no forensic evidence linking the accused to any of the burglaries.

Instead, the prosecution claimed he can be connected by phone traffic and CCTV footage of the masked raiders.

Mrs McKay also claimed Aparicio was attempting to destroy a ski mask when stopped in a car by police investigating a break-in at a branch of Boots in Co Down in November.

Allen was not among others in the vehicle at the time, she confirmed.

The barrister said: "Police believe there's been a falling out with the co-accused Conor Allen around the end of October, but this applicant has continued with his criminality with other people."

Although Aparicio has not been charged with any other break-ins, Mrs McKay stressed the ongoing investigation involves more than 30 incidents since last July.

Defence counsel Richard McConkey attacked the strength of the evidence against his client.

Pointing out that Allen has already been released from custody, he claimed: "The case is very weak against both of them."

Granting bail, Judge Gordon Kerr QC imposed a night-time curfew, electronic tagging and ordered Aparicio's mother to lodge a £2,000 cash surety.

He said: "The risk of further offending in this type of case, which is burglaries taking place in the early hours of the morning, can be dealt with and managed by conditions."

Belfast Telegraph